Doctors have written more than nine million prescriptions for obesity drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy during the last three months of 2022. That's a 300% increase since early 2022. New research reveals that Wegovy has benefits for heart health.
For more than 15 years, 68-year-old Guy Murphy of Huntington Beach has been trying to shed 50 to 60 pounds.
He blames it on work and stress, but heart disease has plagued his whole family, including his mom.
"She's had a triple bypass. My father, he passed away last year, but he had a quadruple bypass," he said.
Even Murphy's younger brother had a heart attack. Soon, his own heart function started to wane.
"The bottom part of my heart on my left ventricle was beating slower than the rest of my heart," said Murphy.
He needed a stent. He was overweight, had diabetes and coronary artery disease.
"These are things that can lead towards heart failure," said Dr. Yu-Ming Ni, a cardiologist with MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute. He prescribed Wegovy in the hopes it would help keep Murphy's blood sugar under control, help him lose weight and save his heart.
"The belief is that one of the ways in which this medicine helps is by reducing inflammation in the body," he said.
In a recent New England Journal of Medicine study, heart failure patients taking Wegovy experienced a significant improvement in heart failure symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath, and those taking the drug lost 13% of their weight.
"By losing weight, the inflammation gets better. By the inflammation getting better, it allows for signs of heart failure to be less prominent, allows people to be more active and be more functional," Ni said.
Last week, the FDA voted for new packaging on semaglutide medications such as Ozempic and Wegovy that warn consumers about the potential for gastric slowing called ileus, which is a failure for the intestine to move normally. Other known side effects include nausea and diarrhea. It's important to talk about the pros and cons with your physician.
Ni believes the heart failure findings could change clinical practice.
"It comes with some side effects, but if you're someone who has struggled to lose weight for a long time, feel free to talk to your doctor about this medication," Ni said
Murphy has been taking Wegovy for about a year now and says he sees a difference.
"My blood pressure's improving because my weight is going down. It's doing what I would expect it to do," Murphy said.